Nature makes me sneeze, but that doesn't mean I don’t appreciate tall trees, star-filled skies, and the quietude that comes with middle-of-nowhere locales. One of my favorite nature-rich places in Washington is Lake Quinault and the surrounding area. Here’s why:
It Isn't too Far From Home
Traffic gets me down, but once I get out of the chaos of city streets, I like road trips, and a three and a half hour drive from Seattle isn't too far for comfort. Plus, once you get off I5, the scenery becomes gorgeous. You drive through idyllic farmlands and lush stands of trees. Of course, the drive has a few ugly spots, too—like Hoquiam. I grew up in Hoquiam, but it is an overall unattractive little blip on the map with few merits.
It’s the Rain Forest!
No, it isn't a tropical rain forest like the Amazon, but the diversity of life is still mind-boggling. Keep your eyes open for black bears, cougars, black-tailed deer, coyotes, and many smaller mammals such as bobcat, beaver, river otter, and raccoons as you’re meandering about on the muddied trails (http://www.quinaultrainforest.com/pages/rainforest.html). And yes, it probably will be muddy, especially if you want to avoid the summer crowds and go in the off-season. The rain forest gets between 10 and 15 feet of rain every year. Bring your boots!
Another plus that goes along with visiting the rain forest is the trees themselves. I’m no expert on our tall wooden friends, but I do appreciate good old fashioned majesty. The towering tops of the evergreen trees could inspire any poet. Want to see some record breakers? The Quinault Rain Forest is home to the largest yellow cedar in the United States, the largest western hemlock in the world, the largest Sitka spruce in the world, the largest Douglas fir in the world, and the largest western red cedar in the world. If you want to check out the giants for yourself, you can pick up a map that shows their locations at the Lake Quinault Lodge.
The word “Quinault” literally means “wide spot in the river,” but this body of water is so much more than that. It is flanked by forest-carpeted mountains. In the summer you can swim in the lake, but I prefer to just look at it. It’s particularly breathtaking around sunset.
I’m not much of a hiker, but I could be convinced to become one. There are oodles of trails in the Quinault area, and I've only traversed a few, but I recommend the Pony Bridge Trail. It’s about two and half miles long and is a nice hike for people who don’t want a trail that is too hard. Be warned, though; to get to the trailhead, you have to brave a narrow road (which isn't always open) that has potholes for every occasion.
No, I’m not talking about scavenging for berries and nuts in the wilderness here. One of my favorite restaurants is right on the shore of the lake. Don’t hold back from visiting just because you notice the moment you step inside that the place smells old. The Salmon House serves up (you guessed it) salmon dishes along with other seafood and pastas. The blackened salmon is always a smart choice for your entree.
Save room for dessert. The chocolate tuxedo cake is pretty much bliss on a plate. Seriously. Try it.
Quinault is gorgeous, quiet, and a great getaway if city life is getting on your nerves. Enjoy!